It’s in Wales apparently, and there are quite a few Welsh slots featuring Owen Sheers, Gwyneth Lewis and Rob Brydon amongst others and for which we should be grateful, I expect.
But what’s hugely disappointing is its lack of attention to the thirtieth anniversary of the miners strike in Wales – an event which leaves a wide supporating gash of post-industrial decline and poverty across many Welsh valleys, to this day.
The festival features the Dylan Thomas anniversary aplenty, (4 events) and lots on the First World War (8 events) – but the miners strike of 1984/85?
Well, it doesn’t get a look in.
Maybe it’s to do with Daily Telegraph sponsorship, or maybe Hay Festival programmers don’t think it matters; fortunately writers in Wales think differently, creating several different takes on it:
Here they are:
This is Kit Habianic’s debut novel and here’s the blurb:
Trouble is brewing in Ystrad. It is time to defend jobs, the pits and a way of life that has formed both the life of valley and the nation.
The union is squaring up to the Coal Board, the government and the country. Gwyn Pritchard, overman at Blackthorn colliery, believes that the way to save his pit is to keep his men working and production high. His men disagree and when an old collier dies on Gwyn’s shift, the men’s simmering resentment spills over into open defiance.
But Gwyn faces a challenge at home too. His daughter Helen is in love with a fiery young collier, Scrapper Jones. In March 1984, when miners across the country walk out to join what will become a year-long strike, Scrapper throws himself into the struggle and Helen joins the women, preparing food for the soup kitchen and standing with the men on the picket line.
Hope Now is an epic poem inspired by the miners’ strife, a form you don’t see too often these days and all the more exciting for that. It’s published by Welsh Independent Publishers Landfox Press, where you can buy it.
The Gritties is my novel, only available online and being made into a tv film. Extract and story here.
And finally, Laura Wilkinson’s book, which although set in Yorkshire, is penned by an author who was raised in Wales.
When researching my book, I found it difficult to halt people in different parts of Wales from sharing memories and telling their stories about the strike. In some villages, scabs are still banned from pubs and there was exceptional solidarity here. The recent Gleison mining disaster and its investigation is currently in the news.
Maybe the festival is too corporate and international – and I’m being naive about this – but I can’t help feeling this history and its repercussions deserve an airing at Hay.